The period between Christmas and New Year is delightful. The preference is to nest with family and friends while eating rich food and drinking copiously (although a few masochistic friends attempt meaningful exercise during this period, usually returning to work in January having broken a leg on a ski slope). There is nothing better during this season than to be in the company of good friends with a bellyful of wine and a fat cigar.
What happens with about a week’s worth of solid drinking is that one has to face up to a week’s worth of mornings-after. A sure fire hangover cure is required. The inestimable Kingsley Amis (from whom I have cribbed rather generously) suggested two components to the hangover – the physical hangover and the metaphysical hangover. One consists of the physical symptoms of overindulging; the headache, nausea and all that. The other consists of the general sense of blahness one feels after the pounding headache starts to recede.
The only proper cure for a hangover is to start drinking again, as soon as possible.
However, your body and mind may need a bit of working over before you can hit the bottle afresh. The first challenge is to work on the physical hangover. The best cure is to wake up next to someone and have vigorous sex – the endorphins will give you both a physical and emotional boost. However, this assumes you wake up next to someone you should be in bed with. If this is not the case and you might have a bad conscience about it afterwards then abstain; guilt and shame are a big part of the metaphysical hangover and sex will only exacerbate the situation. For the same reason do not take the matter into your own hands if you should wake up by yourself.
Shower and shave. Under no circumstances take a cold shower. The shock could kill you. Shaving will help you improve your hand eye coordination and blood letting is a well known cure for illness. Galen of Pergamon famously believed that blood letting cured “fever, headaches and apoplexy”. I am not exactly sure what apoplexy is but it seems like a good thing to be rid of.
Do not attempt to eat anything healthy. It will make you throw up. Your body is dealing with toxicity and must be gently introduced to solids. Most diets ban all carbohydrates; potatoes, bread and the like. I would also ban all fruit and vegetable from the morning after diet. You never liked it so why eat it when you are feeling particularly shitty anyway? A large steak with fried eggs, perhaps with a few rashers of bacon and a dash of tabasco lays a good foundation.
The drink that accompanies this meal must be a properly made Bloody Mary – the time tested hair of the dog that bit you. Vodka, tomato juice, worcester sauce, tabasco sauce, freshly ground black pepper, cayenne, celery salt and a few sticks of celery (for garnishing only – do not attempt to eat a vegetable at this stage). I like to add a generous dollop of fresh horseradish and mix in a cube of beef bouillon. The beef bouillon adds food value and has the added benefit of keeping your vegetarian great aunt from stealing your potion. Drink at least a pint of this mix before moving on to the metaphysical cure.
Now at this point I must advice you that there are variants to my morning after diet. Winston Churchill famously had a brace of cold snipe and a pint of port after a hard night’s drinking. Samuel Taylor Coleridge had a half dozen fried eggs and a glass of laudanum (an alcoholic tincture of opium) and seltzer. Take your pick.
The metaphysical cure to the hangover – getting rid of blahness means paying attention to your other senses. Music and movies are a good bet. Do not listen to anything shouty or any drum and bass (its annoying even when you are sober). Don’t listen to any blues or jazz either – their themes are melancholy and will make you depressed. Avoid opera as well – too many good people die in them and they will make you depressed. Light classical music without vocals is recommended. Vocals are annoying: you are still not ready to deal with other humans and the sound of voices will grate on you.
When you are ready to engage your eyes with moving pictures watch something to raise the pulse and make you feel good. Do not watch art movies, romantic flicks or anything by a female director. They will make you depressed. A Sean Connery era Bond movie is always a good bet while Bruce Lee kills bad people with style.
Go then. Drink and be merry. May the spirits be with you! Merry Christmas!
A version of this blog appeared last year